Saturday, 3 December 2016
Mistletoe is one of our most unusual - and therefore special - plants. It is parasitic, living high in the branches of other trees and living off their sustenance. Its near unique lack of connection with the ground led to its reverence in many cultures. It commonly grows in apple trees and oak trees, themselves both sacred in many belief systems, a fact which adds to its lore.
It was highly sacred in Britain, especially if growing in an oak tree. Pliny wrote an account of its harvesting in the 1st century AD. The Druids would harvest it with a golden sickle, catching it in a sheet so it didn't touch the ground and profane its sacredness. It was believed to cure infertility and provide an antidote to poison. ( It is in fact highly poisonous. ) It also warded off lightening and other evils.
In Norse myth, the god Baldur, who represented the divine light, was killed by a dart of mistletoe. Every living thing had been made to swear not to harm him, with this one exception, which was thought too innocent to cause harm.
And kissing under the mistletoe, a tradition at least 200 years old, still happens at Christmas today!